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Molecular imaging market expands amid challenges

por Christina Hwang, Contributing Reporter | June 15, 2016
From the June 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“Physicians have begun to see PET/CT technology as more than just a scanner, but as a solution to help integrate quality, quantification and analytics into one machine,” says Kirill Shalyaev, Ph.D., vice president and general manager for advanced molecular imaging at Philips.

Defining the value of PET/MR
PET/MR has been used as a research tool for approximately five years, but cost and a limited body of guidance to recommend it have hampered its adoption. When PET first came onto the market, CMS insisted on very good research data proving the value of PET, says Jason Launders, director of operations of the health devices group at ECRI Institute in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. “PET registries were developed and doctors and hospitals were reimbursed to provide the studies as long as [doctors] provided the information of the patient studies to these registries,” says Launders. “They were able to build up good evidence supporting the use of PET, though it took a long time.”

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For PET/MR, Launders believes that it will be a difficult process for researchers to prove that patients need this procedure, so to prove the value of PET/MR, multi-center trials will be required. Also, insurance companies will demand strong evidence from well-designed clinical trials. In addition to the cost of the equipment, another factor impeding the adoption of PET/MR is the maintenance. “You will need someone who is an expert with MR equipment, along with a nuclear physician, so adoption could be more difficult since more expertise is needed,” says Shalyaev.

Manufacturers talk about the advantage of PET/MR since a physician can acquire anatomical and physiological information of the same piece of tissue, at exactly the same time, says Launders. The image commonly produced is one combined image, with the PET image showing up in color over a grayscale MR image of the same anatomical region of the body. Ioannis Panagiotelis, Ph.D., and chief marketing officer of MR at GE Healthcare, believes PET/MR could be the platform to expand molecular imaging into the vast field of neuroscience, though some are not as hopeful.

“As long as the capital cost and operational cost of the system are high, I don’t think PET/MR will be commonly used in clinical settings,” says Mani Adib, senior project officer for the health devices group at ECRI Institute.

From analog to digital
Most radiologists are moving toward dual head cameras, but for facilities that continue to utilize single-head gamma cameras, there is a growing demand for cadmium zinc telluride (CZT), a solid state detector. These new detectors for gamma cameras are highly sensitive with a primary advantage of having a small footprint with few or no moving parts.

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